The Wildcats scored at least seven points in every quarter and played adequate defense in the first and fourth quarters for a 59-38 victory over Indiana. The Wildcats (3-5, 1-4) ended their five-game losing streak, while notching their first Big Ten Conference victory of the season.
"We were ecstatic," said Drake Dunsmore. "The locker room was going crazy, we needed this win."
The Wildcats kept their faint bowl hopes alive, and won for the first time since a 42-21 triumph over Eastern Illinois on Sept. 10. Listed by the Wildcats as a superback on the roster, Dunsmore played like his positional name against the Hoosiers. Dunsmore, a tight end, led the Wildcats with seven receptions for 112 yards and four touchdowns. Dunsmore caught touchdown passes of 22, 10, 6 and 9 yards, setting a school record for touchdown catches in a game and career receiving yards by a NU tight end (1,373).
"All those passes from Kain (Colter) and Dan (Persa) were lasers, dead on, perfect," Dunsmore said. "We've had the time for the receivers to build chemistry with both Kain and Dan, so (the tandem) doesn't affect us at all and both of them were putting the ball where it needed to be. And on a lot of (the touchdowns), I wasn't even that wide open."
The Hoosiers (1-8, 0-5) couldn't stop Northwestern's quarterback combination of Dan Persa and Kain Colter. The Wildcats finished with a season-high 616 yards of total offense, falling just short of the school's all-time mark of 674 yards against Wisconsin in 2005. Northwestern's 59 points are the most during the Fitzgerald-era, and the most since the Wildcats scored 61 points against Illinois in 2000.
Persa overcame last week's turf toe injury to pass for 261 yards and three touchdowns, finishing the game with 302 yards of total offense. Colter added a career-high 115 receiving yards and 153 all-purpose yards, while completing 2-of-3 passes for a career-high two touchdowns.
Fitzgerald called the victory a total-team effort to end the Wildcats' five-game losing skid.
"I don't think we focus on the negative," he said. "I think, more importantly, we focus more on how close we've been and the things that we need to do and that winners need to do to win. Outside of the punt return we put on the ground, not to turn the ball over, the offense did flawlessly there today. We had our hand on a ball there we could have had another interception. So, we continue to win the turnover ratio, we can't give up those kind of yards rushing. We're going to see a dynamic runner next week so we've got a lot of work to do if we're going to give ourselves a chance to compete. But, I think the team is excited. I think they understand that everything's in our control, but there's still a huge mountain to climb. We just need to take it one step at a time."
--QB Dan Persa overcame a turf toe injury to complete 16-of-20 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns against Indiana. Persa finished with 302 yards of total offense to move past Damien Anderson on NU's career total offense list with 4,774 yards.
--SB Drake Dunsmore set Northwestern's all-time receiving yards by a tight end. Dunsmore finished with 112 receiving yards and four touchdowns to give him 1,373 career yards and 14 touchdowns.
--Northwestern's 59 points are the most scored by a Pat Fitzgerald-team and the most since NU scored 61 vs. Illinois in 2000. (61 is NU's modern-era record for points in a game.
--Northwestern totaled a season-high 616 yards in total offense. (NU's single-game record is 674, set vs. Wisconsin in 2005). Northwestern has now scored in double figures 55 straight games
KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Jacob Schmidt had a career effort of 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Schmidt ended with a career-best of 144 all-purpose yards, including a career-long 32-yard run. Linebacker Damien Proby came up big in his first career start, finishing with a career-best 14 tackles, including 10 solo stops.
LOOKING GOOD: Tight end Drake Dunsmore gives the Wildcats another weapon on offense with his red zone ability. Dunsmore caught seven passes for 112 yards and four touchdowns at Indiana. Dunsmore hauled in touchdown receptions of 22, 10, 6 and 9 yards. "Embarrassing," Fitzgerald said.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The Wildcats gave up 38 points to a one-win team. The Hoosiers rushed for 319 yards to finish with 488 total yards. Coach Pat Fitzgerald blamed the team's lack of tackling for the big numbers. Indiana freshman Tre Roberson rushed for 121 yards and passed for 169 yards. "Embarrassing," Fitzgerald said. "We practice tackling for 18 minutes every day, just tackling. If we're coaching bad technique, we have to change it."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Nebraska will be the biggest game of the season. If we can get that one, (we will be a team) to be reckoned with. Being a Wildcat, I want to go in there and beat those guys." -- Northwestern freshman Kain Colter on playing Nebraska next week.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--SB Drake Dunsmore became Northwestern's all-time tight end receiving yardage leader after his 112-yard receiving effort at Indiana. Dunsmore broke the record held by Jon Harvey (1982-83) to raise his career totals to 1,373 yards and 14 touchdowns. He became the third FBS player this season with four or more touchdowns, and first Wildcat to accomplish the feat since Tyrell Sutton did against Wisconsin in 2005.
--WR Kain Colter finished with 115 receiving yards and threw two touchdowns -- both career highs. Colter had 153 all-purpose yards and was 2-for-3 passing.
--RB Jacob Schmidt finished with a single-game career-best of 110 yards rushing and 144 all-purpose yards.
--LB Damien Proby, in his first career start, tallied a career-best 14 tackles.
LB Damien Proby made his first career start at Indiana. He finished with a personal best of 14 tackles, including 10 solo stops.
QB Dan Persa, who was questionable because of a turf toe injury, started against Indiana.